Disclaimer: wall of text incoming, I had to split this post into 2 parts.
So earlier today I had the chance to talk some nitty gritty tech with Seth Call (JamKazam employee.) During the call, he was particularly interested in my setup using ReaRoute and asked me some questions because he didn't have any personal experience using ReaRoute. He mentioned that not many people know of or use the type of setup I do, but there has been some interest. I did some reading here on the JamKazam forum and while I noticed the interest by some users, there were not a lot of solid answers for newbies. So let me do a quick rundown of my setup and my experiences so far and if there is interest from the community for a guide, then I'll volunteer to take the time to writing up a detailed step by step setup.
So the majority of users here let JamKazam control the entirety of the audio from the moment it goes into the interface until you or the other band members hear the audio. This is the best way to ensure reliable performance and ease of setup for people of all skill levels. The downside to this method is that you as the user have almost no control over the audio processing. Here's an example:
Johnny is an intermediate guitar player. He's been playing a few years alongside his favorite Nirvana CD but wants to take it up a notch. He discovers JamKazam. He has his Strat', he went out and got a $40 Behringer interface, and he's ready to rock out. He goes through the normal setup without any issues, and is ready to play. He sees a session named "Beginner's Rock Jam!", so he excitedly joins. He chats with his fellow musicians and they all agree to play "Smells Like Teen Spirit", a song Johnny knows very well. The song starts with Johnny playing the intro, sounds good. Then the rest of the band comes in and Johnny realizes very quickly that his guitar plugged straight into the interface isn't going to cut it. The intro is played clean, but the rest of the song demands some more oomph, mainly a distortion effect.
So what options does Johnny have at this point. Well he could certainly get a pedal or ten, but that can get very expensive very quickly. He could use his practice amp that his mom bought him when he first got his guitar. The problem with that is the amp might not have a Line Out, so he may need to mic the amp, raising the cost without any guarantee that his amp will sound any good once mic'd. He could invest in a good amp with a direct out, but that also has a high cost associated with it. Frustrated that there is another barrier to entry, he may just give up and never return or have to wait even longer to finally get to play what he wants to. If this experience rings a bell, don't worry, I've been there and it's pretty common. Luckily, we live in the golden age of computers to bring that cost barrier of entry much lower then it once was.
What Johnny and many musicians don't realize is that by getting that interface, he now has access to literally countless amounts of digital audio manipulation, often for free. "What kind of manipulation?" you may be asking yourself right now. Well lets look at Johnny's issue. His clean guitar sound didn't cut it for grunge rock, what he needs is lots of distortion and a good sounding amp. One option I can think of is Amplitube, a free to use (with paid optional componants) amp modelling program. Amplitube digitally takes your clean signal and applies tonal characteristics modelled after real live amps and cabinets, and even has pedal, cabinet mic, rack gear, and room acoustics emulation. This one free program could solve Johnny's issues completely. There are many other great amp modelling programs, many of which are also free. I would suggest doing a Youtube search for Amplitube or Guitar Rig to hear what amp modelling does.
Digital audio manipulation isn't limited to amp modelling. Anything you can do in a fully equipped recording studio with millions of dollars in equipment, you can do digitally, and often for free. This is accomplished using plugins (VST plugins are the popular type.) Plugins are applied to an audio signal using a digital audio workstation (DAW). Want to sound like you're being recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studio? Check out the Waves Abbey Road Plugin Collection (http://goo.gl/oXp1S9
). Want your vocals to sound like Trent Reznor through a walkie talkie? Audioease Speakerphone 2 has you covered (http://goo.gl/N0Zk3N
). If you can imagine it, there's probably a way to do it digitally. These two examples cost money, but there are many free alternatives to try for yourself.
So now that you have an idea of what you can do, let me give you a quick explanation of how I accomplish these kinds of manipulations with my personal setup. Instead of having JamKazam control the audio, I use Reaper, a free to try digital audio workstation (DAW). Reaper has an advertised 30 day free trial, but what isn't advertised is that after 30 days you can continue to evaluate the program and all it's features for free. I ended up buying a full license after about 250 days and a total of about 400 hours of use (it keeps track of your evaluation to encourage you to buy a license.) There are other DAWs available, including the famed Pro Tools and Logic, and others such as Cubase and Reason. I'll be sticking to Reaper for this discussion because of ReaRoute which is included with Reason, but other DAWs have other alternatives.
Setting up Reaper with your audio interface is very similar to the setup that JamKazam has. It uses ASIO or WDM to access your interface hardware. Once Reaper is setup to control the inputs and outputs, you need a way to route that audio to JamKazam so the program has something to work with, that's where ReaRoute comes in. ReaRoute creates virtual inputs and outputs in Windows so Reaper can pass the audio stream off to other programs. Setting up JamKazam with ReaRoute is the same as setting it up with your interface hardware normally, but instead of choosing your interface as the input and output, you pick ReaRoute's virtual inputs and outputs.
So the signal path for me goes Instrument/mic to my interface to Reaper, then Reaper applies my chosen effects or other tasks, this is then passed to ReaRoute and finally to JamKazam. With the audio coming from other band members, it works the same way but in opposite, starting with JamKazam, the audio is passed through ReaRoute to Reaper (I can do some tasks here if I want) and finally out to my interface and played over my headphones. You can think of Reaper and ReaRoute as an extra step between you and JamKazam, both with the audio in and audio out.